“Play against Canada ?! This is so strange!” Interview with a Canadian who has taken Chinese citizenship
The Women’s Hockey League Open Cup was played in Sochi last week. The winner of the competition was “KRS Vanke Raise”, but one of the main events of the tournament was the participation of the Chinese team. After the end of the cup, the best Chinese women will join the Vanke Raises, on the basis of which, through the WHL matches, the Chinese team will prepare for the home Olympics.
The main goalkeeper of the Chinese national team at home should be 25-year-old Kimberly Newell , who won the World Cup with the Canadian junior team eight years ago. In an exclusive interview with the “Championship” columnist, Kimberly told how her playing career brought her to China, shared her opinion on preparing the team for the Olympic Games and answered a question about a possible meeting with her native team.
- “Oh, we’ll play in Russia! How will it be? “
- “Why are you wearing this outfit? Better put on a dress. “
- “For two years I worked in New York in the financial field”
- “What other hockey in China? There is nothing there! Are you kidding me? “
- “My God! Playing with Canada will be so weird. “
- “The Chinese national team can be both in the top teams and at the bottom of the standings.”
- “I would like to adopt the style of play from Carey Price”
“Oh, we’ll play in Russia! How will it be? “
– What are your feelings from the finished tournament? How does it feel to play hockey in Sochi?
– It’s great in Sochi. When we drove here, we did not know at all what to expect. We all think that there must be a team of the Women’s Hockey League in Sochi. Both the weather and the atmosphere itself are conducive to this. It is very cool that there is such a competition outside the official championship, where the national team of China and KRS Vanke Raise can play at the same time. It’s great that there is such a variety of teams.
– How do you assess the overall level of the Women’s Hockey League?
– There is a good level of hockey in Russia. Again, when we first entered WHL, no one knew what to expect from the game here. We thought: “Oh, we will play in Russia! How will it be? ” Everyone has some idea of Russia, stereotypes, but we thought: “Let’s go play in Russia, we’ll see what happens.” We were pleasantly surprised by the level of organization and the level of hockey in the WHL, everything is very professional. I appreciate my experience of staying in Russia, from the way the season is organized to the level of the game.
– How unusual is it to start preparing for a new season just a few days after the end of the previous one?
– Over the past few years, I have already got used to the fact that before the start of the championship there are control preseason tournaments. Two years ago we took part in the Silk Road Cup, last year there was no competition due to the coronavirus, and now we are in Sochi. It’s just great that there is an opportunity to play hockey before the start of the season. In the offseason, we work a lot in the gym, sometimes we ride. It’s cool that you can get additional gaming experience. The brain has the ability to readjust and prepare for the season. Intensity, competition – thinking needs to be prepared for official matches. It’s great that we managed to win a few victories, so I feel great.
“Why are you wearing this outfit? Better put on a dress. “
– In Russia, women’s hockey is, in principle, considered a great exotic.
– In North America, women’s sports are becoming more and more popular, but it is still considered unusual when a girl wants to go to sports, especially hockey, because this is a more power sport, as opposed to, say, figure skating.
– But you were sent to hockey.
– My dad played hockey, also being a goalkeeper. Then they brought my older brother to hockey. It turns out that I spent all my childhood on skating rinks. And at one point the father decided: “Why not put Kimberly on skates ?!”. I liked it, and I decided that I want to do this. I remember how my mother used to say: “Why do you need hockey, because you are so beautiful in dresses, maybe it’s better in figure skating?” But I answered her that I wanted to play hockey. Then my mother asked me: “Why do you want to put on all this outfit? Don’t you want to dress up in dresses, do beautiful hair? ” But I kept repeating: “No, Mom, I want to play hockey.” I was sick with this.
“For two years I worked in New York in the financial field”
– If you look at your game profile, it says that in the 2015/2016 season you played for the Princeton University team, then you missed the next two years and only in 2018 ended up in the Vanke Raises. Why did it happen?
– When I studied at Princeton, I was part of the hockey development program for the national teams of Canada. And for many hockey players in their lives, sooner or later, there comes a moment when it is necessary to make a choice – to continue to play sports and try to get into the national team, to combine hockey, study and part-time work, or just to start building a career in a completely different place.
– And you left hockey?
– At Princeton I received an excellent education, after which I have many career opportunities, too good to give up. Although hockey was my whole life, and in Princeton in this regard, everything was great. We won the local championship, and I decided that it was okay to end on this good note. I went to work – I spent the next two years in New York, working in the financial sector.
“What other hockey in China? There is nothing there! Are you kidding me? “
– Nevertheless, in 2018 you ended up in KRS Vanke Raise. How did it happen?
– Just out of nowhere there was a call from the first trainer of “KRS” Degit Murphy, before that she worked at Brown University. And she said to me: “Listen, we have a team here in China, do you want to come and play for us?” Of course, I was very surprised. My first reaction was thinking, “What other hockey in China? There is nothing there! Are you kidding me? ” I told her that I would think about this proposal.
– Why did you agree to quit everything and return to hockey in the end?
– Do many people have the opportunity to play in China, get acquainted with the culture of this country and travel? I decided I would try. Of course, returning to hockey after a two-year absence was not easy. But in my fourth year at KRS Vanke Raise, I feel like it was worth it. If you compare my level at the moment I finished playing for Princeton with the way I play now, then I feel that I was able to make significant progress, met so many wonderful people. I am very glad that I believed in this opportunity.
– You are the 2013 World Junior Champion with the Canadian national team.
– Oh yeah. That victory is the main event in my career. When I was growing up, playing for the national team has always been the goal and dream of my life. Digit knew me because after school I looked closely at Brown and went there. For me, playing for the Chinese national team is an opportunity to pay tribute to my Chinese roots, my mother grew up in this country. It’s cool that I can better learn the language, get to know the culture and spend time with my family, because most of my relatives still live in China. Most importantly, I can bring the sport that I love so much to China and introduce local children to it. This is a unique opportunity.
“My God! Playing with Canada will be so weird. “
– Do you have a dream to play against the Canadian national team at the Olympics?
– Oh my goodness! If this happens, it will be so strange. I went out on the ice in a jersey of the Canadian national team, and now I can find myself in the jersey of the Chinese national team in a match with the Canadian girls. This is cool.
– How would you rate the level of local Chinese girls who will be preparing for the Olympic Games with you?
– We will have a very diverse team, as it will include local girls who train in China, hockey players like me, and this year there are also players from North American universities. They will try to get into our squad. On the one hand, there will be very high competition. On the other hand, this situation will become a challenge for the coaching staff, which will have to unite everyone into a team.
– What do you see as the main difficulty of this process?
– We have completely different styles, many speak different languages, so our team has two translators. But the most important thing is that we all want to create a great team in order to show ourselves well at the Olympics. Of course, historically, China has never had a strong national team, but we will make a lot of efforts to make hockey grow in the country. Personally, I have to focus not only on my progress, but also on how to make our team stronger. And this is what every player in our dressing room thinks. We need to try to create an atmosphere in which everyone will understand that they are part of a single team, where everyone is working towards a common goal. We will strive for this.
“The Chinese national team can be both in the top teams and at the bottom of the standings.”
– If you look at men’s hockey, there is usually a lot of competition to win the tournament, while in women’s hockey the North American teams have dominated for decades. How to deal with them in general?
– Well, of course, the national teams of Canada and the United States dominate women’s hockey. Now Finland has started to play great. At the same time, the Russian national team is at the top. It seems to me that your country has done a good job of developing women’s hockey. I don’t remember all the progress of your team, but now you are definitely in the top 4. And this is noticeable on the ice. If we talk about the Chinese team, then we definitely have potential. The whole question is how we will be able to implement it. This is a big challenge for us, and the next six months will be very important for building a team. In Beijing, we can be both at the top of the national teams and at the bottom of the standings. It will be a marathon, and the games at the start of the WHL season should help us determine the level at which we are now. Russian players have a high level,
– What result at the Olympics will be successful for you personally and for the whole country?
– What a difficult question! At this stage, we do not know the level of our abilities. We don’t even know who exactly makes up the Chinese national team at the Olympics. As I said earlier, now it is important for us to understand our potential and those moments in which we must improve before the Olympics. When such an understanding comes, then we will already think about performing at the tournament. But, of course, I would like to win a few matches. This would be a tremendous achievement for the country. If we show ourselves well as a team, then I will already be happy. We need to show our best performance, nothing more to ask for.
Yes, everyone wants to see the final result, but if you only think about the result, you will never achieve it. The athlete, first of all, is obliged to think about the process. And the process is the next workout, the next game. In my case, this is the next shot on goal. I always tell myself to concentrate only on the next throw. Don’t worry about winning a match, a period, or a conceded puck. You need to concentrate on the next shot, this is the main task for the goalkeeper. And I always tell myself about it. If you think about the right things, everything else will decide by itself.
“I would like to adopt the style of play from Carey Price”
– How does the country generally perceive the fact that Chinese teams play in Mytishchi far from their homeland? Do you feel like anyone in China is interested in what you are doing?
– Difficult situation, because when we played in Shenzhen, we had a solid support group. Both people who were just beginning to learn hockey and those who already knew about this sport came to the stadium. Now it is difficult for us, because we spent the whole season in Russia, and still we are a Chinese team.
Kunlun Company helps us a lot in terms of technical equipment. There are no problems in this regard. If we need some kind of support, the club promptly provides us with everything, and this allows us not to think about any troubles. We can focus on training and our game.
But it would be cool to return to China at some point and feel the atmosphere of the home stands. I was always very proud that we could gather several thousand people in the arena.
– Do you follow the matches of the KHL Kunlun Red Star club?
– I do not follow closely, but I know that it is not easy for them now. To be honest, first of all, I am focused on my work. We have to think about her, which is why I don’t follow the KHL so closely. Yes, we live in the same hotel in Moscow, so we always talk to hockey players when we meet. But I still think that you need to mainly think about your hockey.
– Let’s imagine that you have the opportunity to take a picture with only one NHL player in the Olympic Village. Who will it be?
– I really like Carey Price. I don’t know if he will go to the Olympics, but this is my favorite goalkeeper. I’ve always enjoyed watching him play. There are many different styles in the art of goalkeeper, but I would like to adopt the style in which Price plays. When you watch him on the ice, you realize how focused he is on every moment. He has the mental ability to always remain in the moment. From a goalkeeper’s point of view, I appreciate this and would like to develop this ability.